After that experience (and a lot of research) I bought one of those stretchy Spanx-like "body slimmers" to wear during crampy days. It definitely helped, but it just wasn't tight enough. I found myself folding it over into a smaller and smaller band, trying to get that extra snug fit right around my lower abdomen. It never stayed put, though, so I was constantly tugging at it and re-adjusting. Not good.
My cosplay corset was an overbust style, and not really practical for wearing around the house. (But by all means, enjoy the mental image of me in my Lady Vadore corset with sweat pants. :D)
So I set out to find an affordable "everyday" corset.
Which was really, REALLY hard. Seriously. They're all satin & strappy this or bondage that. Nothing practical or meant to be used as actual, you know, underwear.
Eventually I stumbled across Lucy's Corsetry, a fantastic resource for all things corset-y.
Lucy has about a bajillion video reviews of all the major corset brands, and over at her website she has helpful lists of corset sellers broken down by price range, style, dimensions, etc. It's a little overwhelming for newbies like me, but after several hours of research and meandering, I decided to buy this simple cotton underbust from Orchard Corset:
Lucy also has discount codes for some websites, so with her 15% off this corset costs a little over $60. (A great price for a decent quality corset.) The cotton breathes, and the underbust style lets you wear your own bra, which is a bonus - 'cuz we all know how important wearing the right size bra is now, right?
[Note: This particular corset is made for those of us with less curve. If you've been blessed with more of an hourglass shape, then try this style.]
I'm obviously pretty open-minded about corseting, but before I go on I'd be remiss if I didn't mention there are definitely WRONG ways to corset, so please do your research. For example, my chiropractor was dead set against my wearing one, because he believes it could weaken my back muscles. Since I only wear it for relatively short periods of time, though, I don't think that's a major concern. I also have no intention of getting into the extreme body modification areas of corsetry, since I'm pretty grossed out by the disturbingly tiny waists of the 24-hour tight-lacing crowd.
Ok, safety caveats aside, lemme tell you about my past few months with a real, honest-to-goodness, "everyday" corset - that I don't wear everyday.
Comfort for Cramps:
I had some really severe menstrual cramping this month, but I only needed a single dose of Tylenol the whole week, and no hot packs at all! I just tighten this sucker up and the stabbing agony subsides to an almost comfortable dull ache. I tug the corset down so it sits a little lower than usual for cramps, too, which feels much better - and more importantly, it doesn't budge!
In addition to the crampy days, sometimes I wear the corset while I'm working. This is because, despite my having a perfect ergonomic setup at my desk, I still manage to slump, twist, and cross my legs most of they day. I catch myself making a perfect C with my spine more often than not, hunched over the keyboard and jutting my head forward like a turtle.
The corset stops all that.
The inflexible steel busk in front prevents me from hunching forward, and makes it just uncomfortable enough that I never cross my legs, forcing me to keep my feet on my little footstool instead. Being more aware of my posture also helps me remember to keep my shoulders and head back a bit more, too, so it's a win all 'round.
The corset won't let me slump on the couch as much, either, although I can still sit comfortably, even with my legs tucked up beside me. (Like I said, I'm not a tight-lacer.)
I understand now why antique furniture is so uncomfortable, though; you definitely need a smaller seat and a harder back rest when wearing a corset. Fortunately we just got new couches that are pretty firm and not too deep, though, so I can just tuck a pillow behind my back and do just fine.
It's not false modesty when I say I have almost no waist to speak of. My torso just doesn't go "in" - if anything, it curves out in the middle, like a ball. I've made peace with my shape, but clothes shopping has long been more of a defensive maneuver than anything remotely resembling "fun." Every t-shirt needs an over shirt, every dress needs a cardigan, and every skirt needs a long tunic top & extra wide belt - all designed to hide, hide, hide.
But - BUT! - last month I bought a cute orange dress, and thanks to this corset, I actually like the way I look in it:
With the corset I'm freed from over shirts and cardigans - a godsend when it's 95 degrees out, believe me - and discovering that I CAN have a waist even inspired me to try wearing shorts again for the first time in more years than I can remember:
Look at me! I'M WEARING SHORTS!!
(Ok, so I never actually left the house in them, but still. Progress.)
Then I went completely hog-wild and wore leggings as pants. I know, I know - I'm ashamed of myself, too. I only wore them around the house, though, and boy HOWDY did John like it. o.0
Think corsets = discomfort? Think again. I'm about ready for a slumber party in this outfit.
(Now everyone say "Hi, Lily!")
(Now everyone say "Hi, Lily!")
Have I mentioned that significant others are likely to appreciate your corseted shape, too? 'Cuz they are. And while I don't think that's a good reason to lace up, it's not a bad side benefit.
Now let's talk nitty-gritty details, since I'm sure a lot of you have the same questions I did. You'll find the basic how-tos at any corset site, of course, but here's what I've learned from personal experience:
Is it comfortable?
You're supposed to wear your corset over something, so it never touches your skin. This helps keep it clean (you can't machine wash a corset, and even dry-cleaning is tricky), and also more comfortable. I like to wear mine over simple cotton dresses, or over a t-shirt worn with a thin skirt. (Jeans are too bulky, unless you want to button them over the corset.)
I've never had a problem with the corset being too hot, but to be fair, I haven't worn it outside for more than a few minutes, and I tend to be chilly in the A/C.
How restrictive is it?
I can move a lot more than I expected, even laced as tight as I can comfortably make it. I can pick things off the floor without a twinge, play with the cats, eat, and walk comfortably on my treadmill desk.
The only real issue with sitting (provided I have a good back rest) is that my tracts of land really rise to the occasion. Heh. It's not uncomfortable; just a little weird to have the girls so much closer to my chin.
Note that I never lace so tightly that I can't breath from my diaphragm, though. There are guidelines for "chest breathing" out there, but the thought of not being able to take a deep breath when I want is panic-inducing, and would of course be a lot less comfortable.
Does it really help with anxiety?
I've read that some people do find corsets help their anxiety, because the pressure is like a supportive hug. I have not found this to be the case, though. In fact, I had to remove my corset several times within the first hour because I felt the exact opposite; like I was somehow trapped, and I kept focusing too much on how deeply I could breathe, no matter how much I loosened the laces.
I've learned to trust my instincts on which days to lace up, and over the months I've found myself quite eager to put on the corset some mornings, while others I know it's best to leave it off. This past week has been the best yet, probably because I've found that the tighter I make the corset, the better I feel (in regards to the cramps), so I haven't had any issues at all with anxiety. If anything, I almost forget I'm wearing it!
Can you put it on yourself?
Yep! If you want to tight-lace to the extreme then I could see possibly needing help, but then again, I've managed to make mine tight enough that I couldn't quite breathe from my diaphragm, and had to loosen it up again. A quality corset has strong grippy laces & smooth grommets in the back that make self-tightening a breeze. (Check any corset site for how to properly put on a corset, and also how to "season it," - aka, break it in for the first few wearings.)
How long and how often do you wear it?
I've been averaging about 2 or 3 days a week, wearing the corset anywhere from 5 to 10 hours at a time. I never wear the corset to bed.
How do people react when they see you?
Since this corset has been such a success for me, I'm on the lookout for more everyday cotton or twill styles. I'd love to find a neutral brown shade, but so far, no luck. I'm open to spending more for a custom order, but there are just so many sellers to choose from! So if any of you more experienced corseters have advice, please share in the comments!
Ok, guys, what'd I miss? Ask your questions in the comments, and I'll do my best to answer them!